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School boosts local salmon supply

Gustavo Finney-Sanchez and Carter Olney, both preschool students at Spring Valley Montessori, peek into a bucket of salmon fingerlings that will be released into the creek.  - Margo Horner/The Mirror
Gustavo Finney-Sanchez and Carter Olney, both preschool students at Spring Valley Montessori, peek into a bucket of salmon fingerlings that will be released into the creek.
— image credit: Margo Horner/The Mirror

By MARGO HORNER, The Mirror

The salmon population in the Hylebos Creek is growing thanks to the work of students at Spring Valley Montessori School in Federal Way.

Every year for nearly 20 years, students at Spring Valley annually raise salmon from eggs to fingerlings, then release them into a creek that feeds into the Hylebos. The salmon are about two inches long when they are released.

Gulsevin Kayihan, academic director at Spring Valley, said school staff got the idea to release fish after discovering nearly 20 years ago that during spawning season, there were no salmon in the creek.

Each year before, students studied the salmon for class projects. Construction in the Federal Way area at the time seemed to be contributing to the lack of salmon.

“For two or three years, the salmon didn’t come back and we were very worried,” Kayihan said. “We wanted to do something about it because we were very sad.”

Staff at Spring Valley contacted state and local officials for help. The Puyallup Indian tribe provides a tank and salmon eggs each year. Third- and fourth-grade students feed the fish and watch them grow.

“It was pretty fun,” said fourth-

grader Nicholas Crossman. “We got to feed the fish. We got to look after them. We tried not to forget to feed the fish.”

Students learned about the different stages of a salmon’s life and how to be good environmental stewards, Crossman said.

“We learned that pollution can kill a lot of fish and other marine wildlife... Even plastic can kill fish,” he said. “We learned a lot about how reducing pollutants can give the salmon a better chance at surviving.”

A Puyallup Tribe biologist told school officials that 15 percent of the 500 salmon released each year make it back to the area to spawn, Kayihan said.

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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